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Epidemiological Investigation into Associations between Biomarkers and Growth in Nursery Pigs

08 January 2014

Weaning age and weight are important determinants of weaned pig performance in the nursery, according to new research from the University of Guelph, which also identified a number of biomarkers for monitoring the pigs' growth.

Biomarkers are useful tools in research and clinical practice where they are often used to detect and monitor differences in the physiological state of an animal, according to researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada.

In BMC Veterinary Research, first named author Mackenzie Slifierz and colleagues explain that the proteins IGF-1, IGFBP-3, GHR, CRP, SAA, Hp, IFN-α, IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10 and IL-18 have been proposed as potential biomarkers for monitoring growth in livestock.

The objective of their study was to determine whether hepatic gene expression of these proposed biomarkers is associated with growth performance in nursery pigs.

Herd information and growth parameters were collected for 168 piglets from eight commercial farms in southern Ontario. From these pigs, a sub-set of liver tissue samples (n=74) was used for gene expression analysis of the proposed biomarkers.

Multivariable linear regression methods were used to determine whether genetic expression of the proposed biomarkers was associated with growth performance in the nursery.

Modelling the herd information and individual piglet traits in relation to growth performance revealed that the weight at weaning and the age at weaning are significantly associated with nursery performance.

Average daily gain was significantly associated with hepatic IGFBP-3 and GHR expression in the liver (P<0.05), and tended to be associated with hepatic IGF-1 expression (P=0.071).

Similarly, nine-week bodyweight was significantly associated with hepatic expression of IGFBP-3 and GHR expression (P<0.05), and tended to be associated with hepatic expression of IGF-1 (P=0.055).

The age and weight at which pigs are weaned is an important determinant for nursery performance, concluded Slifierz and colleagues. They added that hepatic gene expression of IGF-1, IGFBP-3 and GHR can be useful biomarkers for monitoring growth performance in nursery pigs.


Slifierz M.J., R. Friendship, C.F.M. de Lange, M. Rudar and A. Farzan. 2013. An epidemiological investigation into the association between biomarkers and growth performance in nursery pigs. BMC Veterinary Research. 9:247 doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-247

Further Reading

You can view the full paper by clicking here.

January 2014

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